Bermuda remembers Rebecca Middleton
Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of one of Bermuda’s most heinous crimes — the rape, torture and murder of Canadian schoolgirl Rebecca Middleton.
Although Ms Middleton’s family still celebrate her birthday on June 27, her father David chooses not to commemorate the day she died.
“When the calendar flips over, I know what day it is. I don’t have any memory loss there,” he told The Royal Gazette. “But I don’t want it to get me. I want to be positive; we’ve still got a great family and Becky is still part of it. We’re not afraid to say her name, it’s just that she’s not there.”
The 17-year-old from Belleville, Ontario, was found lying near bushes on Ferry Road, St George’s, early on July 3, 1996.
An autopsy revealed that she died from shock and haemorrhage as a result of 35 stab wounds.
Ms Middleton, a sailing and skiing enthusiast, was visiting Bermuda on a six-week vacation and staying with friend Jasmine Meens at her family home in Flatts.
After drinking at The White Horse Tavern on July 2, the girls went to friend Jonathan Cassidy’s home, from which they called three taxis in the early hours of the morning.
No cabs showed up, however, and the pair were eventually approached as they waited outside the house by men on two motorcycles, who offered them a lift home.
While Ms Meens made it back safely, Ms Middleton was subjected to her horrifying ordeal and left to die.
Justis Smith, 17, and Kirk Mundy, a 21-year-old Jamaican national, were accused of the killing.
Mundy received five years in prison after admitting being an accessory to the crime, although DNA evidence later showed that he had raped the victim.
Given his previous guilty plea for the lesser offence, an updated murder charge against him was dismissed.
After a protracted and clumsy legal case against Smith, Puisne Judge Vincent Meerabux ruled there was “inconclusive evidence to link the defendant with the commission of the crime”.
A retrial also failed to secure a murder conviction, drawing both local and international wrath.
The incident is remembered as one of Bermuda’s darkest moments, and led to a drop in tourism due to negative publicity and boycotts by those who believed a gross miscarriage of justice had occurred.
To this day, Mr Middleton believes that the powers that be in Bermuda were more concerned with protecting the island’s reputation than securing justice for his daughter.
“The legal system is a joke, and almost everyone in Bermuda was so embarrassed by what happened in the courts,” he said.
“Just about everything that could go downhill, did go downhill. The Attorney-General (Elliott Mottley) told me he hadn’t lost a case in 10 years and was going to get a conviction, and he left town two weeks before the trial.”
Despite the trauma Mr Middleton associates with Bermuda, the grandfather-of-three was impressed by the generosity of the island’s inhabitants in the aftermath of the killing.
“I was there often enough to develop some real friends, who really helped me out and made me feel at home. That was much appreciated,” he said.
However, through his occasional conversations with people in Bermuda and visits to The Royal Gazette website, Mr Middleton believes that not enough has changed in the two decades since his daughter’s murder.
“When people ask me about Bermuda, I say it’s a beautiful place with very caring and kind people. But they are being short-serviced by the criminal justice system,” he said.
UPDATED: Includes comments from Rebecca Middleton’s father, David